Dealing with negative online reviews

Whatever your business, it is possible that someone, somewhere, has posted a review about it online. Customer reviews have a big impact on a business’ online reputation, and they are becoming an increasingly important part of our purchasing decisions – 65 per cent of us look at them before buying a product online, and 57 per cent will even check a review on our smartphone while in store.

Although the majority of customer reviews are positive, negative reviews do happen: mistakes, miscommunications and administrative errors can influence dissatisfaction. As seen last week, there are right and wrong ways to deal with them: one US retailer was ordered by a court to pay $300,000 in damages to a couple who wrote a negative review about them. After threatening to fine the couple, the retailer went on to destroy their credit rating when they refused to take down the review.

An extreme example – but how you respond to negative reviews is important, because it can affect not only your relationship with the aggrieved customer, but also with potential customers. If dealt with correctly, businesses can turn round a negative experience and win back customers. Here are some tips for dealing with negative feedback…

1. Be sure of the facts
When you receive a negative review, understand what has occurred and, ideally, look to resolve the issue offline before engaging online. Admit when you are at fault and reply with what you have done. It is a far stronger response to reply with an update on what you have already done to resolve the problem.

2. Demonstrate Customer Service
A negative review is also an opportunity for you to win back an unsatisfied customer – and demonstrate that you care to potential customers who may also read the review.

3. Be personal…
Use simple language and avoid very formal expressions: imagine how you would speak to a customer if they were standing in a shop, with other people listening in. Never write a standardised reply to multiple reviews or any form of ‘copy and paste’ text – it conveys an image of not caring about customers.

4. …but don’t take it personally
Be objective – and never get dragged into heated exchanges. Mistakes happen but it is how you deal with it that is important. Your brand is being represented, and the public image that you choose to portray may well be the first impression received by future customers.

5. Learn from it
Customer reviews aren’t just a way to measure online reputation – they’re also an incredibly effective method to gain customer insight. Feefo separates out product and service ratings which helps monitor performance: if a particular product is frequently receiving mixed reviews – what can you to do improve it? If one aspect of your service is frustrating customers, for example the delivery firm you use often turns up late, can you make a simple change to prevent future dissatisfaction?

6. Never delete or amend a review
Tempting though it may be to erase a negative review – don’t. Prospective customers should be able to use genuine reviews to make informed decisions before a purchase. Research suggests that businesses showing a few negative reviews that have been dealt with in a professional manner actually create a more trustworthy online presence than one that does not appear to have any negative feedback.

7. Invite feedback from all of your customers
Most online feedback left on open review forms are left by customers who are either very happy or very unhappy with their experience. The ‘silent majority’ of satisfied customers rarely actively seek out a forum to leave a review.

Using a customer review platform that automatically invites feedback from all customers will ensure that online reviews about your business are far more representative of your entire customer base – to put negative reviews into perspective, businesses using Feefo have an average Service Rating of 94.5%; typically, merchants are delivering outstanding customer service.

Customer reviews can give businesses a complete picture of how customers perceive the products and service delivered, and gives consumers an understanding of the experiences of genuine customers. Negative reviews aren’t something to be feared – dealt with correctly, they’re an opportunity to demonstrate customer care.